Sunderland get battered, everywhere they go…..

That’s what was ringing out of the away end last night as Bruce’s defensively minded mags smashed and grabbed a lovely two nil win in Yorkshire on a December night live in front of the nation (kind of). Three away wins before Christmas for United is practically unheard of in the Ashley generation and we’ve bounced our way up to 11th place in the Barclays table. It was a tremendous night.

After the usual panic about service station stop offs, parking space availability and a small bladders approaching Sheffield we were in our seats for kick off (a rarity) and treated to Wolves-style fire things going off as the lads came out.  I don’t know why clubs bother with the pyrotechnics, but it was there and we kicked off and looked as shaky defensively as we did at Aston Villa as Sheffield dominated.  We couldn’t get a foot in the game, couldn’t pass, tackle or shoot. Apart from that it was going really well.  Or the goalkeeper was doing really well with three world class saves. Dubravka’s return to the type of form which had him so highly regarded when he first arrived. It’s not just the saves but the command of the area and the 6 yard box. He was a colossus and he won us this game.

The breakthrough came when Manquillo (labelled ‘Manky’ by Andy Carroll) after the game put in a great ball and ASM rose highest to head home a fantastic header to put us ahead.  The away end went nuts as it was a shock see us get an attempt actually on target. Harsh on the hosts but if you don’t take your chances and that. Hopefully that first goal for the wide-man will have him in the goals for a while to come. He grafted his arse off last night.

We, erm, ‘got through’ the rest of the half with more wasted chances from the home side and more Martin Dubravka brilliance and the consensus at half time was ‘great to be ahead but this can’t go on’.  The good news is it didn’t go on as despite not having much of the ball again, we stepped up a gear in the second half and controlled the game. We kept the ball better, played noticeably higher up the pitch and carried more of a threat.  It was a really positive half time team talk from the manager who not only got the section of Carroll spot on but changed the game at half time and made positive subs.  More of these please, Steve.

The second goal was labelled as ‘controversial’ but wasn’t. No one tracked Shelvey’s run, Carroll got the ball to him and the midfield maestro slotted home.  Their lot going nuts but the referee didn’t ever stop the game despite the flag going up. Two nil, our first proper brush with ‘VAR’ (which is still horrific in its current guise) and the rest of the game was comfortable from there on in.

Sheffield United looked ordinary in the second half and resorted to pumping cross after cross into the penalty area which our back three were delighted to handle.  Everyone improved as the game went on and we can look ahead to a huge game with Southampton with breathing space for now.  The league is incredibly tight and we need to keep going in the right direction.  The manager has made a number of big calls and got them spot on consistently – it’s going much better than many thought it would, myself included.

A great win and a belting away end.  It’s not all bad being a mag at times.

Alex Hurst – @tfalex1892